All words: Ross Bonaime
I once ruined an Interpol show. Well, probably not, but people blamed me for it. Years ago, they played at an HFStival, and I wore my Interpol shirt, excited to see the band who released the album Antics that I loved so much. But after only five songs, Carlos D. angrily left the stage, mad about some sound problem that apparently only he could hear. For the rest of the day, people would yell at me and my T-shirt for jinxing the band. The rest of the band took off one by one after Carlos’ abrupt exit, but Paul Banks stuck around after everyone else left.
I don’t know, but I always admired Banks for that. And while I’ve never enjoyed Banks’ solo work, as himself or by moniker Julian Plenti, as much as I have his work with Interpol, I love how it sounds vaguely like Interpol, but has its own distinct sound, dabbling in elements you would never hear in an Interpol song. So I was excited to hear that Banks was kicking off the east coast portion of his solo tour at Howard Theatre. Making sure not to wear my Interpol shirt, I went to the venue once again to see Banks solo on stage, this time intentionally.
The biggest disappointment of the night came from the crowd’s size. Maybe a third of the venue was filled, which is a shame considering how great Banks was. His set was balanced between his Julian Plenti works and his Banks album. Banks started off slow with “Fly As You Might,” a song that beautifully builds and a nice way to start off the show. Some guy decided this would be the perfect time to yell, “INTERPOL!” Sorry guy, if you’re expecting some Turn Off the Bright Lights, you’re going to be disappointed…
He followed this up with two other older songs, “Skyscraper” and “Only If You Run,” before his first new song, “Arise, Awake.” Banks seems to be almost shy on stage, barely talking to the audience or band and closing his eyes through most of his songs.
After going back and forth between Julian Plenti and Paul Banks songs, a group of four songs from Banks was a highlight, with some of the best songs of the night. He started off with “The Base,” then riffing with the wordless “Lisbon,” before getting into probably Banks best songs, “Young Again,” followed by the gorgeous “Summertime Is Coming.”
Before leaving the stage prior to his encore, he played “Games For Days,” the most high-energy song of the set and a great song to end on. During the encore, Banks brought the set to a quieter tone with “On the Esplanade,” before picking it up again with his finale, “Paid For That.”
It’s unfortunate that the crowd was so small for such a fine show, one where Banks is able to play around with his sound that people are familiar with through Interpol, but also accessible and familiar enough for fans. Banks is a great performer, regardless of if he is with Interpol or not. Good thing I didn’t wear my T-shirt.